As always, we were hoping for good weather for our traditional Easter break. The idea of going on long walks through the gorgeous sceneries of the Umbrian and Tuscan countryside was very appealing; a few day trips were on the cards too.
The walks were definitely not meant to be. For most of our stay it poured down with rain and the temperatures were certainly not encouraging outdoor activities. The first time that the sun shone we headed for the closest locality, San Martino in Freddana, and to two subsequent times to Pescaglia and Lucca.
San Martino in Freddana and Pescaglia are very pretty little towns, perfect for an afternoon stroll and a drink. Lucca is one of the gems of Tuscany, hidden behind fortified walls. Amazing villas can be seen and the streets and piazze are full of charm. The Torre Guinigi and its majestic oaks proudly standing at the top are well worth climbing the countless stairs: Your reward will be an incredible view. We spent an entire day in this incredible city and enjoyed every minute of it.
What we did most of the time though, is prepare wonderful dishes and savour them... We were lucky enough to be able to hire Morena, the resident cook, to teach us how to prepare some local delicacies. Her warmth and enthusiasm made the experience even more special.
We started with gnocchi, these small dumplings made of potatoes, egg, flour and a pinch of salt. We took great pleasure in crushing the still slightly warm potatoes with a fork and mixing them with the other ingredients. You can eat them for example with a tomato or bolognaise sauce, or with bit of sage leaves warmed in melted butter.
Another night we prepared a saucepan full of penne and simply added various green leafy vegetables to them. A sprinkle of Parmesan on top and you end up with a simple but tasty dish.
Our personal cooking highlight was handmade ravioli. The dough was put through the pasta machine several times until it was deemed thin enough. The filling of spinach and ricotta was prepared at the same time and little balls of the mixture were placed at regular intervals on the pasta sheet waiting on the table dusted with flour. A second sheet was laid on top and then we cut the ravioli. We pressed the borders together with a fork as a finishing touch. That night we eagerly put them in salty water and opened a nice bottle of local red wine while waiting for them to be ready. We ended up with a completely empty serving dish.